In The Tall Grass: AKA Groundhog Day If It Was A Horror Film
Lots of weeds. Lots of questions. Lots of spoilers. And lots of reasons to mow your lawn.
Of all the things I know after watching Netflix’s “In The Tall Grass,” I know this: for a film about psychotic weeds, it’s pretty good.
I don’t know if it’s about time travel, alternate realities, mutant Indians, possessed weeds, or Indian Jones style aliens, but fun is fun, right? Even if you have more questions when the movie ends than when it begins.
The story — at least the movie version, adapted from a Stephen King novella — follows a pregnant girl named Becky, and her brother, Cal. Because Becky’s baby’s daddy is a deadbeat, and she doesn’t want to raise a kid on her own, the duo are headed to California to give the baby up.
As pregnant women tend to do — at least in movies anyway — she gets sick, Cal pulls over beside what just happens to be a demon field that’s been collecting souls like some vegan version of ghostbusters.
Or maybe it has nothing to do with demons at all. Perhaps it’s just what happens when you don’t mow your lawn for several generations. Who knows? These are the points intentionally left ambiguous, which become casually frustrating as the flick wears on.
After Becky loses her lunch, she hears a kid lost in the field, yelling for help. So she does what any sane person would do, and goes in after him. It’s not Field Of Dreams, however. No Kevin Costner to lighten the mood. No friendly ghosts who just wanna play baseball. Just a creepy field with towering, hulking, sun-blocking weeds.
From how it sounds, the screams coming from the grass are close. So close, in fact, the kid should be just a few steps in. But because horror, and some fields are just angry, he’s not. Once Becky and Cal travel good and deep into the field, the kid’s voice bounces around like an echo in a cave. Almost instantly, everyone is separated and lost.
Thankfully, the screaming kid’s dad, played by the single most creepy human in recent horror movie history, Patrick Wilson, arrives to save the day. But he’s lost too, apparently split from his son and wife. Or at least that’s what he wants you to think, with his real estate shine and cheesy one-liners. And it being Patrick Wilson, of course, you just know he’s awful.
Meanwhile, Travis, the deadbeat boyfriend, the entire reason Cal and Becky are heading west, comes searching for them. And here’s where the nerd in me wants answers. In the film, Travis doesn’t start hunting until the two have been missing for months. But to us, the viewers, it seems like minutes.
Cool. I can get behind that. But how?
I know, I know, it’s not always about identifying all the details. And sometimes it’s fun to create the how on your own. But often, it’s even more fun to debate the details provided. Like is it a magic field that traps people in a never-ending time loop? Is the grass spreading? Will it eventually cover the world?
These are but a few questions that grow like weeds as the movie continues.
Like what’s with the ancient rock they eventually find? The one Patrick Wilson falls in love with. Meteor? Or better yet, what’s up with all the different versions of the victims? How is it that some iterations manage to escape, but not others?
There’s a lot to unpack. Which, admittedly, is part of the fun. But when Travis finally discovers the loophole in the grass, what actually happens? Will all future Travis’ and Tobins and pregnant chicks live happily ever after? Are we just reliving the same terrifying day, like some creepy version of Groundhog Day? Will one version of Travis and Tobin and his family die, while other versions live? And if so, do those versions learn the lesson we’re told the grass is trying to teach? And by told, I mean a sneeze-and-you’ll-miss-it phrase uttered by Wilson that says everyone trapped in the field has issues they need to work out.
Oh, and what about the incest thing? Yup, at one point, the Cal gets beyond friendly with Becky, attempts to murder Travis, tells her he loves her and basically creeps everyone out. But by the end, after horror logic happens, and the grass people sort of appear, we see the timeline reset, and the two of them escape into the sunset. I mean, what happens there? Are we just supposed to ignore that?
While “In The Tall Grass” isn’t without its issues, it’s still my favorite kind of horror flick. Just enough gore, but not too much. Interesting rules that sustain and promote a universe within a universe. Creepy Patrick Wilson, of course. And only 90-minutes long. I just wish it had a bit more mythology. Not because it would make the movie better, but because I just like that sort of thing.
In The Tall Grass: 6 of 10.